Adolescent Vaccination Guide
As a parent, you probably want to protect your child from illness and injury whenever possible. One way to do that is to make sure they are properly vaccinated. You may have thought the days of vaccines ended when your child started kindergarten, but as medicine evolves, more and more vaccines are available for kids between the ages of 11 and 18. Here, a guide to those vaccines and the schedule for receiving them, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Prevention by Vaccine
With the approval new shots that prevent HPV (a large family of more than 100 viruses, some of which can lead to cervical cancer), meningitis, and tetanus, parents have new opportunities to help their children avoid potentially dangerous infections.
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
Tetanus and diphtheria toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine
Also known as:
In 2005, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend the routine use of Tdap vaccines in adolescents aged 11 to 18. It replaced the previous Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster, which 11- or 12-year-olds would normally have received. The three bacteria-related diseases that Tdap protects against (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) can cause lockjaw, breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, coughing spells, vomiting, and, in severe cases, death.
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine
Also known as:
This vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005, and it provides protection for four of the five strains of meningococcal diseases. According to the National Meningitis Association, Menactra has been proven to protect against up to 83 percent of meningococcal cases among adolescents. The CDC recommends that Menactra be administered to adolescents between the ages of 11 and 12; for those who have missed the shots, they can be vaccinated up to age 18.
Human papillomavirus vaccine
Also known as:
According to the CDC, 50 percent of sexually active Americans will acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives. Because of its prevalence and strong correlation with cervical cancer in females, Gardasil is becoming an increasingly popular vaccine. Gardasil is administered in a series of three shots, the first of which is recommended to be given to girls between 11 and 12 years old. In four multinational tests, Gardasil was nearly 100 percent effective in preventing precancerous cervical lesions and genital warts caused by HPV infection types for which the vaccine is intended.
Also known as:
Many adults may remember chickenpox was a common childhood ailment that, even in mild cases, left children miserable for a week or more. For serious cases, this infection resulted in as many as 15,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths every year. In 1995, a vaccine was developed to prevent chickenpox. The ACIP recommends that children four to six years old receive the booster as well as children in their teens if they have never had chickenpox.
Free or Subsidized Vaccines
Vaccines for Children (VFC) is a federally funded program implemented in 1994 that provides free vaccines for children through age 18 who cannot otherwise afford them. The funding for the program is approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and allocated through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to the CDC. The CDC purchases vaccines at a discount and distributes them to grantees (i.e., state health departments and certain local and territorial public health agencies), which, in turn, distribute them at no charge to those private physicians' offices and public health clinics registered as VFC providers. Children who are eligible for VFC vaccines are entitled to receive pediatric vaccines that are recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. For more information on this program, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/default.htm.
Most colleges also provide these vaccines for free, or they charge less than $75. If you have any questions, you can call the CDC-INFO Contact Center at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636). This toll-free line, open 24 hours seven days a week, provides information on immunization in both English and Spanish.
Health Insurance for Teens
If you can't afford health insurance for your teen, you do have options. One choice is Medicaid, which is for low-income adults and children (the rules about who qualifies for Medicaid varies from state to state.) There's also another program designed specifically to insure kids—even if their families don't qualify for Medicaid. The program is called the State's Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and provides free or low-cost health insurance to kids under 18 who don't have any insurance. Each state comes up with its own rules, but in general, a family of four who earns less than $34,000 a year will qualify. To find out more, call 877-KIDS-NOW (877-543-7669), or visit this web site: http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/states.asp.
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